3.8. Get Out of Your Head and Into the World

Why are we taking this big, long detour through our ideologies and beliefs…when we could be addressing our problems directly?

This week’s videos have dealt in various ways with the dangers of extremism.

We’ve seen how extremism leads to exclusion, which seems like it can increase group cohesion…but often leads to alienation, a lack of diversity, and narrower and narrower definitions of who’s worthy to be treated with respect.

We’ve seen how easily stubbornness and the conviction of one’s beliefs can be confused for one another—to the point where many people, in these divisive times, cling to their stubbornness like it’s a virtue.

We’ve even seen how you don’t have to be a fire-breathing ideologue to perpetuate unproductive us-versus-them divisions—as when you reach the condescending conclusion that the solution to our problems is more “education.”

Ideologies—and especially dogmatic, extreme approaches to ideology—really, really mess up the process of solving our problems.

I don’t care what kind of system of knowledge, beliefs, or ideas you’re using to make sense of this crazy world. I’m sure, if you’re using it, you’ve found some goodness in it.

What I hope you’ll consider is that no ideology, no system of knowledge or beliefs, can deliver complete answers to our problems.

Partial answers? Sure.

Total answers? No way.

The reason is simple. This world—and the 7.5 billion of us living on it—is complicated. More complicated than you can even imagine!

Our systems of knowledge and beliefs, by contrast, are simple. Way too simple to really do justice to all the immense complexities of this world.

I’ve read hundreds of scholarly sociological books. And even all those studies—as amazing and insightful as some of them are—can’t really do justice to all the human activity in this world.

But we get seduced into believing these crude bundles of thoughts—with all their omissions, oversimplifications, and distortions—can completely do the job.

When we fall into that trap, though, we end up pointing ourselves toward impossible, irrelevant, or counterproductive goals.

We stop asking ourselves in what limited ways our belief systems can help us make sense of our problems—and start insisting that all our problems can be solved by subscribing to those beliefs.

We start worrying more about what’s happening in people’s heads, internally, than what’s happening out there, externally.

We start tying ourselves in knots, fighting against policies and practices that clearly deliver real, tangible value to people’s lives—for no reason other than the way it’s done doesn’t accord with the ideas we have in our heads about what should be done.

This is silly.

Why are we taking this big, long detour through our ideologies and beliefs…when we could be addressing our problems directly?

Why are we so obsessed with insisting that we have the right thoughts in our heads…when we could be asking ourselves how to create the best concrete, material conditions we’re capable of?

We aren’t going to agree on our beliefs. We never have. And we never will.

But we don’t have to.

Hasn’t progress happened anyway, in spite of those disagreements?

Get out of your head, and into the world.

That’s where our problems exist. And that’s where we’re going to solve them.


This is the 52nd in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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